Six Strategies to Enjoy Healthy Food that Tastes Great

Small changes in the way you select and prepare food can have a big impact on your health, without sacrificing taste. Enjoy Healthy Food that Tastes Great was the first in the 2013 Health and Wellness Seminar series. The seminar offered strategies for enjoying healthy foods, and recommended that small changes are easier and more sustainable.

Julie Jungwirth, Monadnock Community Hospital’s registered dietitian, and Greg Farmer, MCH’s Director of Food and Nutrition, led the seminar. “We’re not asking people to cut out foods entirely or add strange things. This is lifestyle modification, not a diet.”

Jungwirth and Farmer focused on the recommendations of the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including:

  • Balancing calorie intake and use through portion size and exercise, and;
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, and limiting fats, salt and added sugars.

While fat, salt, and sugar are all essential nutrients for health, the challenge is how to make healthy choices regarding what kinds and how much. The following strategies offer tools for making healthy choices.

Get to know your fats

Not all fats are equally healthy. “Split fats into two groups,” suggests Jungwirth. “Fats that are solid at room temperature, and those that are liquid at room temperature.”

The solid fats – such as butter, lard and beef fat – are high in saturated fats, trans fats, can increase our “bad” cholesterol levels, or LDL, and decrease the “good cholesterol,” called HDL. Those liquid at room temperature, like olive oil and other vegetable oils, are unsaturated fats. They help to increase HDL. Simply switching the fat you use in food preparation can have a big impact on your health.

Shop the perimeter of the market

The key to addressing the challenge of salt and added sugar involves learning new shopping habits. As noted, fat, salt and sugar are essential nutrients. The problem is eating too much of them. Most processed foods (like prepared food, canned food, boxed food, seasoning packets) contain large amounts of salt and added sugar, far more than we need. “Shop the perimeter of the grocery store,” Jungwirth advises. “The aisles in between are packed with processed foods in cans or boxes.” Stick with fresh and frozen whole foods, or low-sodium, no sugar added canned foods.”

Read nutrition labels

Another key to modifying salt and added sugar intake is learning to scan nutritional labels. “If sugar is one of the first four ingredients on a label,” says Jungwirth, “you can assume that [the product] is high in added sugar.”

Limit those foods to one time a week, or choose another variety which contains less added sugar. Some food manufacturers conceal added sugar by including ingredients that don’t sound like sugar. These include a long list: dextrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, whey, lactose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, nectar, sucrose, rice syrup, tapioca syrup.

More label-sleuthing can turn up added sugar and fat. Often when a processed food is fat-free, manufacturers add extra sugar for flavor, and when a processed food is sugar-free, they add extra fat.

How to read a nutrition label:

  1. Check the serving size. Often when we think we are eating a single serving, it turns out we’re really eating two or three servings.
  2. Assuming you want to follow guidelines and eat something like 2,000 calories a day. Estimate that each meal needs to contain from 500-700 calories, depending on whether you eat snacks.
  3. Scan for the nutrients you want to limit, like salt and added sugars.
  4. Scan for the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you want to increase.

Make healthy substitutions

Choose low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, and lean meats instead of high-fat versions. For example, by substituting a cup of skim milk for a cup of whole milk, you consume 60 fewer calories in a day, which translates into six pounds over a year. While buying 90 percent lean ground beef (meaning 90 percent protein, 10 percent fat) may seem more expensive, you are buying more beef because the fat is rendered during the cooking process. Buy skinless chicken and fish to avoid the high-fat skin.

Season with herbs, vinegars, and citrus, instead of salt. Many non-salt spice blends are available in grocery stores.

Drink water or unsweetened tea instead of soda or juice. “With 17 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving, 20-ounce bottle of Coke, and 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can,” notes Jungwirth, “Soda is our downfall.”

One can a day adds up to about 30 pounds of sugar over a year. Giving up that one can per day translates into about 15 extra pounds of body weight over a year.

Modify cooking methods and recipes

Try not to deep-fry or sauté in butter; instead stir-fry with oil, broil, grill, bake, microwave, steam, and boil.

Make over favorite recipes to develop healthier versions. “I add a can of pumpkin to my baked goods,” says Jungwirth, “and no one even notices.” Other techniques for modifying recipes include:

  • Replace solid fats with oils.
  • Add seasonings for increased flavor.
  • Increase vegetables or fruits and decrease protein. (For example, use ½ the meat in lasagna and add chopped mushrooms.)
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3.
  • Substitute whole grains for refined grains.
  • Choose low-fat cheeses and other dairy products.
  • Find low-sodium tomato sauces and products without added sugar.

Check your meals at a glance

Imagine yourself at a buffet table selecting a meal. How much of each item do you serve yourself? How do you decide? The USDA has developed a quick visual to help guide healthy meal choices. Picture a plate divided into quarters. Ideally, ½ of the plate at each meal should be fruits and vegetables, ¼ should be protein, and ¼ should be whole grain. Dairy should either be a topping, a drink, or on the side. For more information, go to

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One Response So Far... Leave a Reply:

  1. Midge says:

    A million thanks for posting this innafmotior.